An analysis of the portrayal of beowulfs image

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An analysis of the portrayal of beowulfs image

Cite References Print Abstract This essay explores the roles of women in Beowulf in a contextual assessment. It is often an incorrect assumption that women within Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon culture are subservient to a patriarchal culture that places little to no value on them.

By limiting the influence of a modern translation, this essay avoids stripping the poem of its Anglo-Saxon verbiage, inflection, powerand meaning.

Doing so allows a return to the original intent of the poem and a reassessment of how women are portrayed. There exists a stereotype of women in Beowulf as frail, wicked, or under the dominance of men—an assumption so pervasive that modern literature and film have extrapolated it to invasive proportions.

However, the female presence in Beowulf is far from a subservient one and must be revaluated from an Anglo-Saxon perspective. Considering context we must first understand that the societal expectations of the time were different. In the Laws of Aethelbert we are given several rules regarding behavior and legal ramifications for crime.

While each gender was considered free and equal, they were also deemed suitable for certain roles within the society. Typically men were looked on for their physical prowess while women were the focus of fertility, which can be seen in the titles they are given: This does not mean that women were considered weaker, but merely that they had differing professions.

In the mind of the Anglo-Saxons, what a person possessed outwardly was the way in which they were identified. Perhaps the most extensive source of literature from the Anglo-Saxon period comes in the Beowulf epic.

Though there is no knowledge of who first transcribed it, it remains the primary example of old English poetry as reflective of the society. Yet the common assumption that often comes from the reading of this text is that the women are believed to take on the predictably subservient role.

It is not difficult to understand how the poem has been liberally altered from the original text. It is in the dissonance between the original text and the modern ones that lead to the incorrect assumptions regarding the women in Beowulf.

To look at the poem from this perspective degrades it of context and power, thus lessening its importance and connection to the Anglo-Saxon world. On the surface it only appears that the women of Beowulf have only minor roles because their significance is either glossed over or specifically put down by scholars and analysts.

On the contrary, in early Anglo-Saxon literature there is a stern representation of the strong woman in Beowulf. We are shown several female roles within the text, but none are more telling than those of Wealhtheow and Hygd. Although it can be assumed that these women have a lesser position given the little that is said about them in comparison to Hrothgar and Beowulf, they nevertheless have imperative roles within the tale whether positive or negative.


Through the narration we can see the central positions that women hold within the society and the hall. She asserts her power in this scene by visually displaying that Hrothgar is of the highest status in the court since he is given the cup first and that Beowulf has risen to higher place by Wealhtheow offering the cup after the king drinks.

She carries the ability to make decisions for the court, bestowing Beowulf with the grace and trust of Hrothgar. Beowulf understands the significance of the gesture and thereafter promises that he will complete the task set before him, or else die in battle.

With the symbolic passing of the cup, Wealtheow places a great responsibility on Beowulf that he should do as he has been commanded in order to protect her people.

Her position as the ring-giver, the gift-giver, places her in a unique place because it is she who has the power to bestow Beowulf with the rewards that comes from his killing of Grendel.

An analysis of the portrayal of beowulfs image

Though Hrothgar is the one who promises Beowulf riches if he should be successful, it is Wealtheow who decides what gifts he will receive and if he will receive them at all. Independent of counsel, the queen rises in the hall to address the warriors and hail Beowulf for keeping his bargain.

From the SparkNotes Blog

She is the supreme gift-giver, but does not reveal her true autonomy until she delivers a commanding speech to the company in the hall: Here of every glorious warrior, courageous, merciful, lord-gracious.

As a thane ought to do, returned justice to where our ancient peoples drink All men will do that which I bid.An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Anglo-Saxon Customs and Values Reflected in Beowulf - Anglo-Saxon Customs and Values Reflected in Beowulf Readers today approach the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf with cultural preconceptions very different from those expressed by the author of this poem.

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An analysis of the portrayal of beowulfs image

A great, bearlike monster, Grendel is the first of three monsters defeated by the Geatish hero Beowulf in the sixth-century poem Beowulf. In Grendel, he is a lonely creature who seeks an understanding of the seemingly meaningless world around him.

An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Anglo-Saxon Customs and Values Reflected in Beowulf The British Library is currently engaged in a project to establish a full image archive relating to the transmission down the ages of one of the earliest known Anglo-Saxon poems: Beowulf (thought by some to have been written in the eighth century AD.

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